I used the Genius Ladder as part of our Morning Work. Students were given a "blah" sentence and they had to work on it from there. As they finished they'd bring me their notebook and I would read through them. Each day I'd pick out one as an example and write it on the dry erase boards at the front of the room. They had fun guessing whose sentence was on the board and started working even harder to get selected as an example.
I would read through the ladder and we'd point out what made the sentence "spicy", "extended", etc. I would then circle the adjectives and conjunctions they found. Students started writing additional detail sentences on their own--without my even having to prompt them!
I really noticed a difference in their writing skills. As the year went on I started taking their suggestions for "blah" sentences which got them even more invested in the process. This also helped me out quite a bit as it became harder for me to think of them. I usually wrote the sentence on the board around 7:00 A.M. and if my iced coffee hadn't kicked in it was insanely hard to think of one I hadn't used already.
After 3 years in 3rd grade, I was asked to move to the middle school level. I'll be teaching Language Arts and Reading for 6th, 7th and 8th grades. I plan on taking the Genius Ladder with me, and adding WBT's awesome new idea: Green/Red Marker! Check out the video on their homepage!